Dealer Licensing in South Carolina

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South Carolina offers several different kinds of licenses for car dealerships, depending on the kind of business you operate. Before you can be issued any kind of license, however, there are several requirements you must meet.

We've outlined them below for you. For more information, refer to the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (SCDMV) dealer licensing page.

Before you submit an application, you will need to attend a pre-licensing course lasting 8 hours. Information about the course can be found online using the free Adobe Reader, or you can visit the Carolinas Independent Automobile Dealers Association (CIADA). The website provides current course locations, schedules, and fees.

Upon completion, you will be given a certificate to include with your application packet. Additional forms and documents to include are as follows:

  • Application For A Dealer Or Wholesaler License (Form DLA-1): This is the initial application for a dealer license.
  • Motor Vehicle Dealer and Wholesaler Surety Bond (Form DLA-1B and 1B IS): A $30,000 Surety Bond and Power of Attorney. The name on the Bond must match the same name on the application and the Bond must be in effect before your license can be issued. You can purchase bonds at most insurance agencies. (Dealers for travel trailers, motorcycles, and wholesale auto auctions must post a $15,000 surety bond.)
  • Sales tax number: You'll need to apply for this if you plan to have a retail location. The SC Department of Revenue provides a wealth of tax information for you to access online.
  • Incorporation papers: You will need to incorporate your business with the South Carolina Secretary of State (you may visit the SOS online). You may incorporate as a regular corporation (Inc.) or as a limited license corporation (LLC).

But the paperwork doesn't stop there. For an outline of the forms you'll need once you obtain your license and begin operating your dealership you'll need more forms, visit our Dealer Forms section.

Retailer Requirements

If you plan to operate a retail location, the state requires certain elements from your business.

  • Your building must be a permanent, enclosed structure with at least 96 sq ft of floor space. It must be easily accessible to the public in person and by phone. While the structure can be a mobile home, it cannot be a residence, a tent, or anything temporary.
  • The building must be the primary business operating from the location and your records, files, and books must be housed in this facility.
  • You must display a permanent sign with lettering at least 6 inches tall.
  • You must provide a reasonable area for a lot to display vehicles.
  • Your dealer license must be displayed prominently at all times.
  • If you purchase dealer plates for your vehicles, you must maintain liability insurance.

Note that dealers must keep accurate records of all transactions for at least 5 years. Each sale you make needs to include the date of the sale and the name and address of the buyer, an Odometer Disclosure, and a complete vehicle description, including the Vehicle Identification Number.

These records must be housed in your business location, and must be available at all times for an inspection by the DMV. If you fail to keep accurate records, or refuse access to them, you could be penalized with stiff fines and/or imprisonment.

Buyer's Guide

You are required by federal law to provide customers with a Buyer's Guide. This Guide must be posted on the window of the vehicle for sale, and must state whether the car is sold with a warranty, or "as-is." When you sell the vehicle, you keep one copy of the Guide for your dealer records, and give one copy to the buyer. Make sure the buyer signs both copies.

Wholesaler Requirements

Wholesalers are not required to maintain a building or provide a sign, but they must house all of their paperwork in the address listed on their application and license.

Submitting Your Application

You will need to submit all of your paperwork and documentation to the following address. There is no fee to submit an application.

  • South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Dealer Licensing and Audit Unit
  • P.O. Box 1498
  • Blythewood, SC 29016

When your application has been processed, you will be contacted by the DMV to arrange an inspection time. The agent will visit your place of business to determine if you qualify as a motor vehicle dealer.

Licenses cost $50 each and are valid for 12 months. For information about renewing your license, as well as obtaining dealer plates, call (803) 896-2611 or refer to our Dealer-Related Information section.


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